Thursday, October 28, 2004

Rosemary Clooney's home to be museum

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA - Former Miss America Heather French Henry and her husband plan to buy and renovate the former home of singer Rosemary Clooney.

The couple said they plan to live part time in the two-story brick home built in 1835 along the Ohio River and use it for a public museum. Henry and her husband, former Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, said they will display memorabilia from Clooney's career as an internationally known pop singer.

The couple said they plan to purchase the home within the next two weeks. The Henrys currently live in Louisville with their two children - Harper Renee, 3, and Taylor Augusta, 15 months.

Heather French Henry grew up three blocks from Clooney's house before moving to Maysville. Henry said Clooney served as a mentor to her when she was Miss America 2000, and the two often talked about their hometowns.

"Augusta and Maysville were the only places where we could get away and breathe," Henry said. "I would like my children to get what I got from Augusta."

Clooney, a Maysville native and the aunt of actor George Clooney, was a singer and actress popular in the 1950s with No. 1 hits such as "Come On-a My House." She also is remembered for her appearance alongside Bing Crosby in the movie White Christmas.

Clooney was 17 when she and her sister Betty, then 14, got their start as singers at WLW-AM in Cincinnati. Rosemary Clooney enjoyed a resurgence of popularity late in life as a jazz singer. She was 74 when she died of lung cancer in 2002.

Clooney bought the Augusta house in 1980 and lived there when she wasn't on the road performing or at her main residence in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"I remember how happy Rosemary was here," said her brother Nick Clooney, a former journalist who is now the Democratic candidate for Congress from Kentucky's 4th District. "This was a place of joy for her, by this magnificent river that was always our North Star."

Steve Henry declined to disclose the price he and his wife will pay for the house. A four-year-old assessment of the house set its value at $71,400.

Steve Henry said only private money will be involved in the purchase and renovations. A foundation will be created to operate the house, he said, even after the Henrys no longer live in it.

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